Heather Heyer lost her life and liberty standing up for yours and mine.
She gave her life in service of the simple, universal value that no form of violence, tyranny, or injustice, can be allowed to stand unchallenged. She knew she was facing danger; she told friends the threat worried her. She made a choice to put herself at risk to say with a clear voice and a clear conscience that she did her part as a citizen, in service of others.
Every one of us should aspire to be deserving of the way she sought to be of service to us.
The murder of Heather Heyer was carried out by a neo-Nazi terrorist who went to Charlottesville to join armed militia groups, who despise the core principles of American democracy. The 45th President of the United States then shocked the world by seeming to place blame on law-abiding anti-racist citizens like Ms. Heyer, while exonerating the extremist hate groups that brought about her death.
The founding creed of the United States is:
that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Nazis, the KKK, and the Confederacy all used violence and terror to oppose these values and promote enslavement and genocide. The Nazis and the Confederacy murdered hundreds of thousands of loyal Americans. The KKK has waged a terrorist war against the American people for 150 years.
Donald Trump is decisive, specific, and vicious in his criticism of anyone he dislikes or disagrees with. When neo-Nazis attacked Charlottesville and killed Heather Heyer, he said “many sides” were at fault and refused repeatedly to name the racist militants responsible. In his ongoing refusal to condemn white supremacists, and in his efforts to subvert the prosecution of neo-Nazi terrorists, he has shown himself to be aligned with those whose unifying creed is hatred for the Republic he is sworn to serve.
No other public official can stand in for the president here.
- The nation and its core values have been attacked by terrorists sworn to the destruction of the Republic.
- No civil rights organizations or anti-racism coalitions are in any way responsible for the terrorist intention, organizing, or action of these hate groups.
- Trump’s “on many sides” comment directly echoes the racist mythology of self-absolution that says the racist does violence only because the existence of the other forces him to hate.
His words on Saturday were a naked endorsement of the hate groups that attacked Charlottesville, and an abdication of his authority as protector of the Constitution.
Our Constitution was designed to evolve beyond grave initial injustices, and we have as a people passed through many trials by fire to rework it into the foundation of the most diverse, open, and resilient democratic republic in the world. Millions of Americans have given what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion” to defend it.
Our head of state has a Constitutional obligation—an obligation under the supreme Law of the Land—to confront and destroy these terrorist groups. Instead, he and his aides—at least one of whom has sworn allegiance to a Nazi group—betray the country and subject us to morally bankrupt rhetorical twistifications by which they seek to justify these craven killers.
White supremacist groups have described President Trump’s public statements as “love” for their cause and are claiming “moral victory”. The man who murdered Ms. Heyer reportedly believed his Nazi views were aligned with the agenda of President Trump. Organizers of the event repeatedly told the press that they were in Charlottesville to carry out the mission put forward by Donald Trump. Nazis hailed Trump with a Nazi salute.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has described the Charlottesville attacks as “evil” and as “terrorism”. As of this morning, two days after the murder of Heather Heyer by terrorists, the highest Constitutional officer to declare “no tolerance for hatred and violence by white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK” was Vice President Mike Pence.
After two days of nationwide bipartisan pressure, President Trump today amended his earlier statement, saying:
Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.
He pledged to fight “so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear” and spoke of protecting “the sacred rights of all Americans.”
What he did not do was reverse the aid and comfort he has provided so far to these groups. He did not call what happened in Charlottesville “terrorism”. He did not condemn the organizers or the armed militant groups who have deliberately and knowingly invited and celebrated such terrorist acts.
We must stop treating treason, bigotry, and genocide as “heritage”; they are not.
The president must treat these violent hate groups as terrorist organizations, and commit to dismantle them. He must immediately dismiss every member of the White House staff who has in any way, shape or form, expressed sympathies with any of these groups.
We all have an obligation to put the Constitution ahead of the whims and deficiencies of the powerful. Those sworn to Constitutional office all the more.
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides a remedy if “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This must be kept at the top of everyone’s minds, for the very next time he shows he is unwilling to condemn, oppose, and dismantle Nazi, KKK or neo-Confederate militia.